June 25th – 29th, 2018
Welcome to Quebec City, the capital city of the Quebec and the cradle of French culture and civilization in North America.Quebec City’s Vieux Quebec (Old Quebec) is an historical neighborhood and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area comprises Haute-Ville (or the Upper Town) and Basse-Ville (Lower Town) and contains some of the city’s most interesting sites. The history of the neighborhood dates back to 1608. Some of the buildings still found in the neighborhood date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. There are many parks still found in and around Upper Town, including the Esplanade, Montmorency Park and Artillerie.
Of course, you can’t miss The Hotel Frontenac which is generally recognized as the most photographed hotel in the world, largely due to its prominence in the skyline of Quebec City. The Hotel was designed by American architect Bruce Price as one of the series of chateau style hotels built for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. The Hotel opened in 1893 and was named after Louis de Buade, Count of Frontenac, who was governor of the colony of New France from 1672 to 1682 and 1689 to 1698. Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mackenzie King discussed strategy for World War II at the Chateau Frontenac.
We checked into our host hotel, Le Concorde, which is located in the heart of beautiful Quebec City with many museums, and attractions close by including The Chateau Frontenac, Parliament Hill, Grand Allee, Musee de la Civilisation, place D’Youville, Quebec City Hall, Convention Centre, Plains of Abraham, Battlefields Park and the Petit-Champlain district. Numerous surrounding restaurants offer great culinary experiences and the opportunity to discover Quebec City’s gourmet specialties. There is a lovely heated outdoor pool on the fourth floor terrace with a view of the St. Lawrence River and free WIFI. We certainly enjoyed hearing that some of you had dinner in the revolving dining room Le Ciel on the top floor that offers beautiful views of the City and the St. Lawrence River. We also enjoyed the most important meal of the day – breakfast each morning of our stay at the JA JA Restaurant.
Dinner at La Buche Restaurant was an experience; it was like being a loggers camp with picnic tables, rough wood interior and the “lumberjills” instead of “lumberjacks” doing the serving. The choices tonight included items such as French Pea Soup, Salad with Maple Syrup Dressing, Meat Pie Nuggets, followed by Tourtiere, Pate Chinois (Quebec Shepherds Pie), Smoked Salmon Salad with Maple Dressing or Poutine de la Buche. We ended this wonderful meal with maple taffy on snow. It was such a lovely evening for a walk along the Grand Allee to Rue Saint Louis where La Buche Restaurant is located and a stroll back to burn off some of the wonderful calories that we enjoyed tonight.
Today we spent our morning with Quebec Guide Nicole on a Tour of Quebec City.
Our first stop this morning was the Plains of Abraham including the area where Paul McCartney and Celine Dione performed free concerts in 2008 to celebrate Quebec’s 400th Birthday as well as the Joan of Arc gardens. The flowers and shrubs on display were quite a showplace. We can only wish that our gardens would look as lovely. Nicole also told us about the Martello Towers which were an integral part of the defences of Quebec. We saw Nos. 1 and 2 on the Plains, No. 3 was destroyed in 1905 and No. 4 is the City.
Our next stop was at the Governor’s Promenade overlooking the St. Lawrence River where off in the distance you could see the railway bridge that was beside the Pierre LaPorte Bridge that we crossed when coming into Quebec City. We also saw parts of the Citadel, Battlefields Park on the Plains of Abraham and the Earl Grey Lookout. I’m sure we all now know how Earl Grey Tea was named and of course the famous Grey Cup (Go Leafs Go!!!)
With all the celebrations from St. Jean Baptiste Day this past Sunday and Canada Day fast approaching as well as their celebrations of Confederation, the City was full of workers busily taking down and putting up venues for the planned activities. We then had a stop in front of the Parliament Building (also known as the National Assembly) which has had major renovations that were completed by 2017 in time for Canada’s 150th Anniversary. The gardens surrounding the Parliament Buildings are glorious. In front of the Parliament Buildings was the Tourigny Fountain which had been a gift to the City from Simons Stores for the City’s 400th Anniversary in 2008.
We had a nice little walk along part of the Boardwalk at the Chateau Frontenac and Nicole explained about the archaeological dig under the Boardwalk which was visible to us from the glassed viewing area. Wasn’t the entertainment on the Boardwalk great – a little bit of everything, from backflips, singers and musicians. As you travel through Quebec you must have noticed many street entertainers; they are licensed by the City to perform and the only compensation they receive is by tips from folks that enjoy the entertainment. We were able to have walk around the Old City where we saw Place Royale, where a part of the movie Catch Me If Can (starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hanks) was filmed. It was the part that was supposed to be in France, which is very comparable to this area.
The Petit-Champlain district, a picture-perfect neighbourhood resembling a quaint riverside village. Since Québec’s foundation in 1608, this area has evolved to a small portside village with fur trading posts and elegant homes. Over the years, its fortunes waxed and waned. Today, as a result of an expansive urban restoration project, Quartier Petit-Champlain comprises narrow streets lined with one-of-a-kind boutiques and bistros. We also saw the impressive historical architecture and cobblestone streets including Saint-Vallier Est. Street, the first paved street in Quebec. We hope that you all enjoyed the European atmosphere of this quaint neighbourhood which was the site of Quebec’s first port. This area contains many of Quebec City’s most fascinating spots.
The Church of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, was officially designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1988 and plaqued in 1992. Construction began in 1687 on the site of Champlain’s first residence, making this the second oldest church in the Americas north of Mexico. A castle-shaped altar shows how people saw the city at the time. It has undergone extensive restoration in recent decades to restore its colonial French character. In 2002, the church served as a filming location for Catch Me If You Can, and again in 2004 for Taking Lives.
Place de Paris is surrounded by striking architectural features, including pretty shutters, roofs typical of different historical periods, and the rooftop ladders once used by chimney sweeps. Today they are used by snow removal teams in winter. The Fresco Mural was amazing. Didn’t you feel like you could walk right into the picture? This mural tells of the origins of the district, as a port and as a community. In addition to depicting the bombardments, landslides and other major events to have occurred in Quebec City, it illustrates the lives of the people who built, inhabited, worked in and set down roots in this district. I think we can all agree that Nicole was a remarkable guide, very knowledgeable and spoke very clearly so we could all understand.
Thanks to everyone who joined us for an afternoon of exploring. From our drop off at Chateau Frontenac we easily found the Funicular (or for the more brave, a walk down the stairs or the long long walk to the lower level). At the bottom of the Funicular lies the Petit-Champlain district, where we had a short visit on our tour this morning.
We really enjoyed being with quite a few of you today and we hope that you all had some fun exploring all the winding streets, were able to see some interesting sights and try some of the wonderful food. We did notice quite a few of you enjoying the shops, boutiques and having a little afternoon coffee stop at Steve’s Office “Maison Smith in Place Royale”!!
After experiencing La Buche, a French Canadian Restaurant last night and looking forward to dinner at the Sugar Shack tomorrow, you had the chance tonight to try some more typical Quebec food including Baked Beans consisting mainly of beans and pieces of pork fatback, slow-cooked OR maybe Pea Soup consisting of dry yellow peas, salt pork and veggies simmered in water seasoned with a bay leaf. Pea Soup is often part of the traditional meal served at sugar shacks. Meat Pie is a seasoned ground beef pie with a top and bottom crust. Poutine – we all know what this is – French fries covered with cheese curds and topped off with hot gravy – YUMMY. For dessert you may want to try Sugar Pie which is a single-crust pie filled with a mixture of cream, flour, eggs and brown sugar or maple syrup.
Our first stop of the day was at the Montmorency Falls.The falls are located about 12 km from the heart of old Quebec City. Higher than the Niagara Falls, the impressive Montmorency Falls stand 83 meters (272 feet) tall. The falls form at the mouth of the Montmorency River, where it drops over a cliff into the St. Lawrence River opposite the western end of the Île d’Orleans and is surrounded by Parc de la Chute-Montmorency.
We stopped at the Visitors Centre at the bottom for a short visit and photo stop. Some of you were brave enough to take the aerial tram between the base and the top of the falls.
Ed drove the rest of you to the top of the Falls where we walked along the Boardwalk to the observation deck for a close-up view of the falls. It was great seeing many of you go up the stairs to the suspension bridge that crosses the crest of the falls and enables you to see both sides of the park as well as the thundering water. Thanks to Steve I was able to see some great pictures from the very top. I surprised myself today, (I really don’t like heights) – my last time at Montmorency Falls I managed to get up those stairs, out on that bridge (only about 10 feet mind you), took a photo and hightailed it back to safe ground; but this time I rode the cable car to the top, what will I manage next ?? maybe the top of a stepladder, not the second step!!
After enjoying the Falls, we travelled across the Île d’Orléans Bridge to meet our Guide Nicole at the Info Tourism Office. Île d’Orléans is located in the Saint Lawrence River about 5 kilometres east of downtown Quebec City. The island was one of the first parts of the province to be colonized by the French, and a large percentage of French Canadians can trace ancestry to early residents of the island. The island has been described as the “microcosm of traditional Quebec and as the birthplace of francophones in North America.”
The Island of Orleans retained its traditional rural way of life until 1935, when construction was completed on the bridge, allowing much more traffic. The crossing
connects to the Chemin Royal. In spite of this, the island has maintained its pastoral image and historic character, with more than 600 buildings classified or recognized as heritage property. In 1990, the entire island was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.
After a short stay back at the Hotel we were off to Dinner at the Relais des Pins Sugar Shack located in Sainte-Famille -de-l’Île-d’Orléans, about 35 minutes from the Hotel. This was a really interesting experience, with music, dancing, playing spoons, etc. The staff at the Sugar Shack were not only great chefs, musicians, servers but the entertainment as well. We both have to say that we have very talented kids, playing the spoons and some fancy dance steps were certainly a plus for a wonderful evening. The food was a typical sugar shack menu including pea soup with home made bread, pork and beans, meat pie, salted pork crisps, ham in maple syrup, potatoes and relish. Dessert was a highlight – sugar pie and pancakes with maple syrup served with maple tea and coffee. The last treat of the night was maple syrup taffy made on snow, which was served outside. The secret is to heat the syrup and pour it directly onto the snow and it forms the taffy that we wrapped around sticks and enjoyed. It felt like being a kid again!!
A little added bonus for the ladies, a Boutique. There were some really great Quebec souvenirs to bring home for the family, friends, or just a memory for you of the great time you had in Quebec. We now are the proud owners of wooden spoons, I’m going to have plenty of fun times ahead……
Today were again off another adventure. We had a nice scenic drive towards Beaupre past Montorency Falls, the Orleans Bridge and had a short mystery stop at “The Quebec Addams Family House”. What an interesting old house, too bad its been left deserted, even though the owner is the neighbour. Our next stop was at the Albert Gilles Copper Art & Museum. This was a very interesting stop where we saw how the family of Albert Gilles, a dedicated artisan who crafted the doors of the Ste-Anne-De-Beaupré Basilica, has been running this business founded by Gilles. For nearly 100 years, the Gilles family has been renowned for its metal craftsmanship.
Its founder, Albert Gilles, was born in Paris in 1895. He was, at the age of 11, introduced to the art of ¨Repoussé¨ (metal embossing) by his aunt, and very quickly, this hobby became a passion. In 1926, he even won the first price for “Arts Décoratifs” in Paris. Crossing the Atlantic in the 1930’s to benefit from the advantage of the ¨new world¨, he then put his talent to serve famous personalities. In Detroit, he decorated the house of
the Fischer brothers of the GM CIE and for Mr. Mendelson of Chrysler. Then he worked in California for the Universal Studios as a decorator. He received at this time orders from Mae West and Fredric March, actors of the ’30’s and decorated the houses of Roy and Walt Disney. We viewed exclusive pieces and learned about the art of embossing copper.
Our next stop was at Saint Anne de Beaupre. We met our Guide Sylvie who stayed with us on a 45 minute tour of the Basilica and the grounds. The doors of the Church were quite exquisite; I’m sure that you will agree that after visiting the Gilles Copper Studio it gave us an appreciation of the artist and his work. The Basilica is a Sanctuary dedicated to Saint Anne. Even if we know very little about the life of Saint Anne, the simple fact of being the mother of Mary and the grandmother of Jesus, is sufficient for the Church to recognize and venerate her for centuries. The entire ceiling mosaic of the Basilica describes the life of Saint Anne. It tells the story of her life, the life of a Jewish woman in that era. It speaks of her virtues and the vault also illustrates to us her glorification.
Wasn’t it funny that during the wonderful tour with Sylvie, that we all saw the “Goat” in ceramic tiles on the floor, after all the fun we have had looking for a Goat during the Scavenger Hunt on the way to Quebec. And no, you cannot have your sheets back to mark down the “Goat”…
We finished off with some free time in Beaupre for lunch. Beaupré is a ville in the Canadian province of Quebec, located in La Côte-de-Beaupré Regional County Municipality. The town is along the Saint Lawrence River and Route 138 at the mouth of the Sainte-Anne-du-Nord River. Our lunch stop today was at Le Marie Beaupre Restaurant which was located just down from the Church. The Restaurant did quite a good job getting us in and out and we were off on another scenic drive to the Charlevoix Region to visit the quaint village of Baie-Ste. Paul.
The Charlevoix region, includes parts of the north shore of the Saint Lawrence River and the Laurentian Mountains region of the Canadian Shield.
We are now on the last leg of our journey and will soon be home with fond memories of our wonderful trip together. Thanks to our Driver – Captain Ed for his great driving and we both hope that you have enjoyed your Quebec City and Charlevoix experience and that you will find this Trip Journal to be both a travel keepsake as well as informative. We have thoroughly enjoyed the time we have spent with each and every one of you. Thanks “Kids”… Until the next trip, signing off…
Wendy and Steve Griffin
Your Maxima Tour Directors